This academic year has started strong for the University – as well as the announcement of our involvement in the Waterside Enterprise Zone in Northampton, we were delighted with the news that the Department for Education has approved two new University Technical Colleges within the county, of which we’ll play a large role. The two UTCs, which are designed to offer 14 – 19 years olds an opportunity to take full-time, technically orientated courses alongside top level work experience opportunities with significant regional employers, are due to be open by 2013 and will cater for over 500 pupils each.
University Technical College for New Technologies, Daventry, will allow pupils to specialise in a vocational curriculum in sustainable new technologies, whilst Silverstone Academy – in the heart of Motorsport Valley – will have pupils training for careers in motorsport, high performance engineering and events management. Traditional core GCSE subjects will still be taught but these initiatives will allow pupils to study in a practice-based way, focussing them on specific career paths and increasing their employability prospects.
So why is The University of Northampton involved? Don’t we teach 18+? The University is a great believer in ‘lifelong learning’ – we have a large cohort of mature students, one of our graduates being 88 years young! But there’s no reason why lifelong learning shouldn’t start even earlier for the higher education sector – we reach out to prospective students in schools and colleges through dedicated activities, and the UTCs will see us directly helping to shape the lives of young people across the county with a firm academic base for the proposed curriculum, and through student mentoring and encouragement of entrepreneurship and business skills. We are making closer links between school age, further and higher education, and UTC students may choose to study further with us, a partner or another higher education institution.
We are a University with established teaching and research excellence – our Schools of Education and Science and Technology are well known for their excellence in mathematics, education, environment-based disciplines and science teaching and will bring much experience and knowledge to the UTCs.
There is also the important issue of skills, especially those that are the kind that employers want and will make sure students end up in jobs. A key theme of UTCs are that employers have direct input into the curriculum, making sure that what is taught is relevant directly to the world of work and the wider economy in general.
Strategically, the UTCs also make sense for us – we are involved with two out of our four partner colleges – Moulton College, the lead sponsor of UTC New Technologies, Daventry and Tresham College of Further and Higher Education with UTC Silverstone. Silverstone Circuits we already have excellent links with – only recently our Journalism students were involved with a competition on-site with them at the British Touring Car Championship – and we work closely with other key partners for the UTCs; Daventry District Council, Northamptonshire County Council, West Northants Development Corporation, and the Daventry Learning Partnership. We look forward to developing closer relationships with all the employer partners involved in the UTCs. These are great developments for the county involving major names and we are proud to be supporting them and helping students achieve their potential at this level of study.
First published in Northampton Herald & Post, 27 October 2011
- Damian Pickard
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